The Arizona football team reported to fall camp Wednesday, the opening of the final chapter in the Great Wildcat Mystery of 2016.
What the heck is that defense going to look like?
Continuing the theme from spring practice -- when coaches and players vowed that the mindset would be that they would "play like savages" -- defensive lineman Luca Bruno talked Wednesday about a new aggressive style under new coordinator Marcel Yates.
"Last year, we were kind of waiting," Bruno said. "Now, we're more of an attack defense, which will cause a lot more turnovers."
Arizona ran former coordinator Jeff Casteel's 3-3-5 odd stack scheme for the past four years. That scheme --- which Casteel and head coach Rich Rodriguez used successfully at West Virginia -- had become a bit stale and apparently too easy to decipher.
"Yeah, that was a big concern," Bruno said. "After a little while, even I noticed it was easy, pretty much, to predict what we were going to do."
Whether the UA technically remains in a 3-3-5 alignment remains to be seen. Even if it does, it won't be the same. Bruno talked a lot about this defensive front doing much more pre-snap "stemming" -- switching alignments and formations.
"Before the snap, we're moving, and it's going to confuse people," Bruno said. "And I love that."
The defensive linemen under Casteel had more "control" responsibilities. They were asked to take on multiple blockers, eat up space and keep the lanes clear so linebackers could come downhill and make plays in the gaps.
The new task of the defensive linemen will be to get off blocks and see if they can make some big plays of their own. See the ball, get the ball.
Nobody outside of the program is really going to get a full impression of what this all looks like before the Sept. 3 opener against BYU in Glendale. Only two fall practices are scheduled to be open to the media -- including the first workout Thursday evening. And even if the team shows anything at all related to scheme, the program has put restrictions on what can be reported.
But just know that things will be different with an entirely new defensive coaching staff after Arizona allowed 466.8 yards per game, ranking 114th out of 127 teams in Division I.
"For the past few years, we'd run mostly the same things," said linebacker Cody Ippolito.
"This defense that we're doing has a lot of different packages, has a lot of different things that we can do. We can have four down linemen, three down linemen, even five down linemen if we really want.
"I feel we will be able to surprise more people."
Ippolito, who missed last season with an ACL injury suffered in camp, said he's dropped about 10 to 15 pounds, looking noticeably leaner as he competes for a starting spot. He says he's 100 percent, although injuries to other players will linger into early camp.
Linebacker Jake Matthews is coming off a foot injury sustained late last season. Bruno might not have an immediate green light as he wraps up rehab from a foot injury suffered against Arizona State in the regular-season finale.
Their health are minor mysteries that might get solved in a couple of weeks.
The solution to the major mystery of this defense might not be revealed for another month.
"Just attack, be as aggressive as possible," Bruno said of Yates' message.
"I like his whole style of coaching. I like this defense. ... I think it's going to be a great defense."
- - -
7831 N. Business Park Drive
Tucson, AZ 85743